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(506) 2223-1327       Published Thursday, July 16, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 139       E-mail us
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New museum project includes a 361-foot ramp
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional said Wednesday that it is building a 110-meter (361-foot) ramp to provide a new access to the facility from the remodeled Plaza de la Democracia.

The museum estimated the cost at about $500,000, and said the ramp and other improvements in stage two of its own reconstruction plan will provide disabled access to 98 percent of the facility.

The work is being supervised by the Centro de Patrimonio of the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes. The museum is an historical structure.

The job is supposed to be completed in December to provide visitor access starting in January, said the museum. Those months coincide with the nation's high tourist season.

The museum will also make changes to its butterfly garden. It said that only species that are found in the Central Valley will be kept in the future instead of a sampling of other species from around Costa Rica. The area is being changed into more of a botanical garden that will contain plants attractive to butterflies but also shade trees for visitors.

Visitors will enter the museum south of the existing door that faces the Plaza de la Democracia. They will enter a vestibule that will contain displays to welcome them.  The ramp will enter the renovated butterfly garden.

The ramp also will provide access to a reinforced south southwest tower.
museum ramp
Museum sketch shows that the new ramp will be anything but direct.

Museum workers also are reinforcing a two-story high retaining wall that separates the main floor of the museum from the existing butterfly garden. The wall is critical to the museum, and officials said that if it gave way much of the historic museum structure would collapse.

The former Bellevista Fortress looks older than it is. The former military headquarters was built in the early 20th century and played a role in Costa Rica's 1948 civil war. The walls still show pockmarks from bullets fired at defenders during that time.

The fortress also is the place where José Figueres Ferrer abolished the army in 1948 after he was victorious in the civil war.  The museum recently moved in a statue of the former president to a spot overlooking the butterfly garden.

The statue had been a prominent feature of the plaza below, but it was displaced by construction and demolition of some of the concrete walls that had been a fixture of the plaza.


Registro promises official downloads of key info
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Registro Nacional will be putting corporate and other documents online starting in August, and the project seems bound to change the way business is conducted.

Among the items being placed online are personarias juridicas for corporations and various certifications. The personaria is the document that is alway requested when a corporate officer makes a major purchase or signs a contract.

At one time notaries would prepare the document for a fee. They had special access to the Registro so they could obtain most of the information without going there. The notary certified via the document that the individual was indeed empowered by the corporation to do its business.

Eventually, the Registro itself began issuing personarias. The current price is 1,300 colons, about $1.15, far less than the usual notary fee of about $10 to $20.

With the corporate ownership information online and updated daily, the need for a personaria diminishes, although conservative Costa Ricans like those at the telephone company probably will want one that bears a Registro seal for some time.
The changes were authored by the Ministerio de Justicia y Gracia, which supervises the Registro. An announcement said that the idea was to spare individuals the need to go to the Registro to obtain documentation.

At this point the Registro Web page contains a search function showing ownership of corporations, automobiles and other items. But the information is not detailed and a download is not official.

In the first stage of the project Internet users will be able to obtain certifications of certain documents, although exactly how that will work is yet to be explained. Also available will be certifications of individuals. a data base of who holds various powers of attorney and actions and liens affecting ownerships.

The Registro also promises by March to have  planos catastrados or property maps online and a system for certification of the property ownership. It also will provide an online method of paying for the various certifications, said the announcement.

Now most payments are made by buying official stamps from small Banco de Costa Rica offices at the Registro and its regional branches. The announcement said that Internet users will be able to pay the fees via credit card.


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Negotiations on Honduras
set for Saturday morning


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

President Óscar Arias Sánchez expects to convene the next negotiating session over the future of the Honduran presidency about 10 a.m. Saturday. The opposing sides have selected their designates to represent them at the bargaining table.

Meanwhile, Interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti said he is open to resigning as long as ousted President José Manuel Zelaya is not allowed to return to power.

Micheletti made the comment to reporters Wednesday in Tegucigalpa. A day earlier Zelaya said that he would accept nothing less than full reinstatement and said Saturday was the deadline.

The new round of mediation talks is aimed at resolving the ongoing political standoff between the two rivals. Aides to Arias said they expected the discussions to continue at least through Sunday.

Zelaya's representatives will be Arístides Mejía, a former minister of defense in Honduras;  Milton Jiménez, a former foreign minister, and Enrique Flores Lanza, the secretary to the Presidencia.

Micheletti will be represented by Carlos López, a former foreign minister;  Arturo Corrales, president of the Partido Innovación y Unidad;  Mauricio Villeda, vice presidential candidate for the Partido Liberal, and Vilma Cecilia Morales, a former president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia. in  Tegucigalpa.

Arias is mediating the dispute involving the two men and he called on Zelaya to be patient with the process, as did the United States. Zelaya is not making the mediating job any easier.

Zelaya has said the people in his country "have the right to insurrection" in order to force the caretaker government to return him to power, following his ouster June 28.

Micheletti has said he will only discuss the deposed president's return to Honduras if Mr. Zelaya faces charges of treason and abuse of power in court.

The interim government says it expelled Zelaya from the country last month because he was trying to illegally change the constitution to extend his power.

Meanwhile, a new public opinion poll indicates that Zelaya is more popular than his interim replacement.

Results of the Gallup poll, published Wednesday, indicate  Zelaya has a favorable rating of 46 percent, although a nearly equal number of respondents (44 percent), have given him an unfavorable rating.

Respondents gave Mr. Micheletti a 30 percent approval rating.  His unfavorable rating stood at 49 percent.

Monday, Mr. Zelaya issued what he called his "ultimatum" to the interim government, saying it must give him back the presidency within a week.  Zelaya said if he does not resume office by then, he will consider the discussions a failure.

Zelaya and Micheletti met separately with Arias last week at the Costa Rican leader's home in Rohrmoser.

The United States and the Organization of American States have called for Zelaya's reinstatement.  The U.S. also has called for all parties in the crisis to give the talks a chance to succeed.

Spokesman Robert Gibbs Wednesday said the United States continues to believe that Mr. Zelaya's removal is not in accordance with democratic principles.

U.N. official wants end
to Honduran press curbs


Special to A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.N. official has called for restrictions on press freedoms to be lifted in Honduras.

He is Koïchiro Matsuura, head of the U. N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

“I am deeply concerned about reports of restrictions on the media and harassment of journalists in Honduras,” said Matsuura.

“In situations of crisis, it is especially important to ensure that the media can report freely and without intimidation,” he added.

Since Zelaya was forced from office on June 28, human rights and press freedom organizations have reported severe restrictions on news media by blocking cable television transmissions and Internet access, as well as arrests of and attacks on journalists, according to a U.N. press release.

Matsuura also condemned the killing, apparently unrelated to recent political events in Honduras, of Gabriel Fino Noriega, a radio reporter, in San Juan Pueblo in the country’s north.

The reporter was shot July 3 by an unidentified gunman as he left Radio Estelar, a local station on which he presented a daily news program. He was also the local correspondent for Radio América, a national radio station.

“Using violence to silence journalists constitutes an intolerable attack on the fundamental human right of freedom of expression and on the whole of society’s ability to enjoy human rights,” said Matsuura.


Our readers' opinions
There are many ways to cut
the cost of living here


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to a letter about paying the same as those in the U.S. for electricity, the writer should do some comparing before making statements like that. 

Most people we know in the U.S. would think themselves very lucky to have a $100-a-month charge.   He could lower his costs by putting a sun panel on his roof connected to his water tank, thus having his water always heated by the sun.  The initial cost soon easily pays for itself in lowered monthly costs. 

Another big savings is gained by avoiding using electricity at the peak times.  The government even has a program that rewards your avoidance of peak times (10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.)  We wash and dry our clothes after 8 p.m.  Ticos generally don’t use clothes dryers, even when they own one, but prefer to dry their clothes in the sun.  Not having heating or air-conditioning bills help a great deal to differentiate us from our friends and family in the U.S.

Costs for food here are another expense that don’t begin to compare with the U.S. unless you are buying a lot of packaged, canned and bottled food.  When we buy fruit in the U.S. while visiting family, we are lucky to get a medium sized bag for less than $20.  A red pepper costs between $1 and $2, depending on size. 

If others who think food is expensive would buy at the weekend ferias, which is by far a healthier way to eat, they would be surprised at the quality and quantity of food for ridiculously low prices compared to the U.S.  Even bakery prices which keep going up are much lower than in the U.S.

We agree that Gringos generally don’t compare prices, or get three evaluations for work before contracting, and often give tips in restaurants whether deserved or not.  And the writer is right that many Ticos take advantage of foreigners for this reason, thinking we are all so wealthy that money doesn’t matter. 

Of course, those who can’t speak even basic Spanish can expect to be cheated now and then.    

Rich and Jean Redmond
Moravia
18-year residents

Limited hunting on isle
would reduce damage


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Very nice article, exciting photos on Isla del Coco.

Being a diver, one of the things I was taught about hammerheads: When schooling they are docile.  Most attacks occur when one shark is alone or injured. 

The biggest concern for the preservation of the island is the destruction of the plants caused by the introduced pigs and deer. One of the islands in Hawaii has the same problems with destruction of the habit by the pigs.

In order to preserve the flora and fauna, these animals may need to be removed.  A limited hunt which could generate funds for the park might be one solution.

Elena Ross V.
Quepos

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 139

Chlor free
Escazú Christain Fellowship

More than 1,000 police being deployed for pilgrimage
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

So far the annual pilgrimage by up to 2 million persons to Cartago still will take place. Security officials said Wednesday that more than 1,000 police officers will be on the job starting July 25 to protect the faithful. There has been concern that fear over the swine flu virus might cause the health ministry to cancel the annual devotion, but so far the pilgrimage has a green light.

Fuerza Pública officers will be using helicopters and security cameras to keep an eye on the pilgrimage. Some of the faithful walked from Panamá and some even from El Salvador in prior years. Most Central Valley residents walk the 22 kilometers (14 miles) from San José Aug. 1 to be at the Basílica de Los Ángeles for religious ceremonies the next day.

Others walk a week or a few days ahead to avoid the crowds.

The pilgrimage is a challenge for the Policía de Tránsito
who must protect pilgrims from vehicles and provide alternate motor routes when necessary.

The security ministry estimates that during the week before Aug. 2 there might be a total of 2 million pilgrims on the roads headed to pay respects to the Virgen de los Ángeles, the nation's patron.

Like any other big event, the pilgrimage or romería, as it is called in Spanish, attracts criminals. So the police will be on the alert for them, too.

The Cruz Roja has yet to announce its game plan, but the agency handles everything from blisters to broken bones during the course of the week.

Other agencies being involved in the joint operation include the Comisión Nacional de Emergencias, the Cuerpo Nacional de Bomberos, the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the Municipalidad de Cartago, the Ministerio de Salud, Hospital Max Peralta and the Catholic Church's Comisión del Santuario at the Cartago church.


Southern zone airport seen as a benefit to both countries
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A southern zone airport will benefit both Costa Rica and Panamá, President Óscar Arias Sánchez told his southern counterpart Wednesday.

Both Arias and Ricardo Martinelli talked about joint development projects along the common border. The new Panamanian president also was reported to be interested in learning about Costa Rica's government health system. He brought Franklin Vergara, his country's health minister on the quick trip.

Arias had attended Martinelli's inauguration several weeks ago. He told the Panamanian president that plans were advancing for the proposed international airport in Palma Sur, and Arias said the project would benefit both countries.

The two presidents discussed the possibility of a joint development plan along the border, according to Casa Presidencial.

Costa Rican officials are hoping that the southern zone
presidents meet
Casa Presidencial photo
Ricardo Martinelli and Óscar Arias discuss development.

airport, when built, will have the same development
impact that the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia has had on the pacific coast.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 139

Festival goers have choice between jocotes and corn & beans
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two agricultural festivals kick off Friday. In La Uruca de Aserrí the product being honored is the Jocote.

Meanwhile, the guests of honor in southern Costa Rica are corn and beans. That festival is the first Feria Nacional de Maíz y Frijol, and it will be held Friday through Sunday in  El Águila de Pérez Zeledón.

The Aserrí festival includes this weekend and the weekend that follows. More than 500 producers are expected to have 2 million kilos of the little green fruit available. The variations are many, including chocolate-covered jocotes and jocotes in wine and even flan.

This is the fifth year for the Aserrí festival. The festival
site is 26 kilometers (16 miles) south of the center of Aserrí.

Both events are sponsored by the Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería.

The festival near Pérez Zeledón has a purpose more serious than just selling products. The ministry said that there was concern that the consumption of corn and beans has diminished in Costa Rica.

The Consejo Nacional de Producción has been buying these products in order to keep the price up, it said. Purchases are given to various governmental institutions. The agency just purchased 162,000 kilos of beans, it said.

The jocote festival also had its roots in overproduction.


Despite size, Costa Rica still 9th in Internet users, study says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country has registered a 39.4 percent increase in Internet users during 2008, and ranks No. 9 in Latin America in that category.

The top country is Brazil, which has a much greater population than the estimated 4.5 million in Costa Rica. Brazil has 67 million users, compared to the 1.5 million in Costa Rica.

The figures are from the International Telecommunications Union and were compiled by Latin Business Chronicle.

México is seeing the strongest growth in broadband Internet in Latin America, said the business publication. Colombia sees the strongest increase in total Internet usage.

The number of broadband Internet users in Latin America jumped by 38.2 percent last year to 27.7 million, according to the Latin Business Chronicle analysis of new data. That was five times more than the growth seen in Internet in general, where the number of total users increased by 7 percent to 156.9 million.
For every 10 percentage-point increase in high-speed Internet connections there is an increase in economic growth of 1.3 percentage points, The World Bank said in a recent report, noted the Miami-based Chronicle.

The number of broadband users in México went from 3 million to 7.6 million, the publication said. Brazil had 10 million such users, up 2.5 million from the year before.

Other countries with significant broadband increases in 2008 were Colombia (695,700), Argentina (585,300), Chile (114,800) and the Dominican Republic (72,300), the Chronicle said.

In the overall rankings for broadband use, Costa Rica was tenth with 176,100 users, it said.

During 2008 Venezuela picked up 1.4 million Internet users, México gained 1.2 million and the Dominican Republic gained 885,000, the publication said.

Of the 156.9 million Internet users in Latin American 27.7 million had broadband access, the publication concluded in a news story and reported in a press release.



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 139

Casa Alfi Hotel

Sustainable planning topic
of development seminar


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

There are many eco-villages, intentional communities and sustainable developments forming in Costa Rica.  The ICCCR.info is a Web site dedicated to helping these community flourish and share information through networking together.

Wednesday Finca Amanecer will be hosting a one-day seminar for ICCCR.info.   Gary Schmieding will be the guest speaker with the title  “Which development regime is best for my project?”  This builds on the information from the workshop held in March. The seminar will discuss servibumbres, land trusts, cooperatives, and condominium development regimes.  These terms mean different things here in Costa Rica than they do in the United States or Europe.  

Those who attend will learn the importance of your useo de suelo.  This is essentially a zoning permit and it will determine lot size, setbacks and exactly what can and cannot be done with the property, said organizers.  The other item of major importance is the myriad of regulatory agencies landowners deal with, they said.

The seminar is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and will include a light lunch.  The cost is $30 cash or barter. Organizers said they hope to make this affordable and educational for everyone.  This is a hands-on workshop, and attendees should feel free to bring planos, and any site planning they may have.

Those interested can contact Elena Ross at askelena@gmail.com or by phone 2779-1123.  The FincaAmanecer.com Web site contains directions and bus schedules.  Local lodging is available for those who wish to spend the night, organizers said.


France moves to expand
legal Sunday store hours

   
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

France's lower house of parliament has approved a bill expanding the number of stores allowed to be open on Sundays. The French national assembly passed the bill Wednesday by a vote of 282 to 238. It must now be approved by the senate.

The new legislation would allow shops in France's three largest metropolitan areas — Paris, Marseille and Lille — to open on Sundays. Employees would be able to choose whether they work on Sundays and would be paid double for doing so.

Stores in other towns designated as areas of interest for tourism also would be allowed to open, as well as spas.
Extending Sunday working hours was one of President Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign promises.

The move has met with criticism from the political opposition and those who consider Sunday work an affront to the traditional day of rest.

Nicoya area will get
ID service for minors


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Nicoya regional office of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones will begin issuing identification cards for minors Friday.

The Regional office is the 13th to do so. Youngsters from 12 to 17 receive an identity card that is much like the cédula carried by adults. The tribunal expects to service some 15,000 youngsters from the cantons of Nicoya, Hojancha, Nandayure and a handful of districts in the area.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 139


Latin American news digest
Crumbling bridges force
closing main highway


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Large holes have developed in two major bridges on the Autopista General Cañas, and road officials are closing the major highway to fix the problems. This is the highway that connects San José with Juan Santamaría airport, Heredia and Alajuela.

The Juan Pablo II bridge in La Uruca is one location where concrete installed 25 years ago is crumbling. Large holes have developed in the road surface.

The bridge over the Río Virilla has had problems for several weeks. Transport workers have installed large metal plates to cover the holes, and this had a tendency to slow traffic. Major traffic jams are the result.

The highway is to be closed partially tonight from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday.

Friday from midnight Friday until Monday at 5 a.m. the highway will be closed completely, according to the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, which manages the roads. Detours will be via secondary roads.

Decree signed to reinstate
metro area vehicle bans


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As expected, President Óscar Arias Sánchez signed a decree Wednesday reinstituting vehicle restrictions in the metropolitan area. The decree takes effect when published in the La Gaceta official newspaper, which may be Monday or Tuesday, officials said.

The decree reinstates rules that were thrown out by the Sala IV constitutional court. The stated purpose is to reduce downtown congestion and pollution, but the restricted area is much larger.

The restrictions, based on the last digit of the vehicle's license plate, run from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.



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